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Insurance rates can be affected by smartphone use

In Pennsylvania, the threat posed by texting and driving is all too real. Distracted driving due to smartphone use can dramatically escalate the risk of a dangerous car accident, and insurance companies are taking the risk into account. One unit of a major insurance company is now tracking smartphone use inside the car for rate setting purposes, based on the level and type of use the phone has.

The technology uses the gyroscope and accelerometer inside the smartphone to assess whether the device is being moved in a hand or left lying flat. The software can also track app usage and whether the phone is unlocked. Insurance giant Allstate said that it may use the software to set insurance rates and promoted it as a means of encouraging safe drivers. While testing the software, 160 million trips by thousands of drivers were assessed. The results indicated what research has already shown - drivers using their phones on the road can put others at risk.

How to act around aggressive drivers

Aggressive drivers are unavoidable in Pennsylvania and elsewhere, so it's up to other drivers to not aggravate them even more and put everyone on the road at risk. The first step is to stay calm and not give in to road rage. Listening to soothing music could relieve stress, and thinking reasonable thoughts, such as how useless anger is in the present situation, can also help. Drivers must never make offensive gestures or eye contact with aggressive individuals behind the wheel.

People may also dissuade themselves from road rage by remembering that it won't benefit their health. Even tightly gripping the steering wheel is known to constrict blood flow and lead to headaches. In other situations, such as when a parking spot is stolen, drivers should give the other person the benefit of the doubt, considering the fact that perhaps the other did not see them.

Here's the real reason drivers are distracted

Your spouse got hit by a distracted driver. Your family is now facing lost income, high medical bills and a lot of other costs. Even though you're relieved that doctors say your spouse will recover, everything is certainly not okay.

What you keep turning over in your mind is how easy it is to avoid distraction. Can't people just pay attention for that 10-minute drive to the store or the 20-minute commute to work? Is that really too much to ask? Other people's lives -- as well as your own -- are on the line.

Bill requiring underride guards for trucks in Congress

Pennsylvania drivers may be interested in learning that a measure that would require all trucks to have guardrails installed on their trailers went through Congress. Called the Stop Underrides Act of 2017, the measure would make underride guards, which are optional safety measures, legally required.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety says an estimated 1,475 people were killed after their passenger vehicles were involved in accidents with semitrucks in 2016. Of these causalities, 295 died after their passenger vehicle collided with the side of the trailer while another 238 died when they hit the rear of the trailer. Even though the IIHS data does not show whether the fatal accidents involved a passenger vehicle sliding under the sides of the trucks, a spokesperson did say that underride crashes were completely preventable and did not need to happen.

Tips for Pennsylvania drivers braving the wintry weather

The winter of 2018 has been a fierce one. Pennsylvania drivers need to be prepared if they get caught in inclement weather. The national auto association AAA offers some safe driving tips for winter weather in the United States.

Some of the below tips are solid year-round advice for drivers, but pay special attention to those dedicated to the wintry months.

USCIS taking applications for so-called startup visa

Entrepreneurs that reside in Pennsylvania but were born outside the United States may be able to apply for temporary residency under a new category. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services is accepting applications under the Obama-era International Entrepreneur Rule. The IER allows foreign-born entrepreneurs to live in the U.S. while developing and growing startup companies. Along the way, the applicants are required to meet specific benchmarks, which are meant to make success more likely.

The IER has sometimes been referred to as a startup visa, but it technically is not a visa. Rather, it is a parole period during which foreign-born individuals without visas are allowed to live in the U.S. The program was structured in this way as a workaround by former President Obama when Congress failed to pass immigration reform. Congress is the only government branch with the authority to create new paths to citizenship and categories of visa.

Caring and planning for aging parents

As your parents age, it is normal to take on greater responsibility to care for them. If you have concerns about how to help your aging parents manage their resources and stay on top of their obligations, you're not alone. It is wise to consider the primary difficulties your parents may face, and then you can search for viable solutions.

Without a comprehensive approach to elder care and planning, your parents may see their quality of life decline sharply, or may find themselves at risk of sub-par health care. As an adult child stepping up to help your parents transition in this important season, you have a great opportunity to love and care for your parents in very special way, and this comes with a certain degree of risk. If you do not fully understand all the issues at hand, you may miss important benefits and protections for your parents.

Avoiding medical negligence injuries: 4 tips for patients

Medical malpractice is devastating for patients. If you are receiving medical care of any kind, you'll want to cover your bases by being proactive when dealing with doctors and surgeons. After all, medical professionals are not immune to mistakes, and medical errors are the leading cause of death in the United States.

When you need medical treatment, you can rely in part on your commonsense to determine whether a medical professional's actions (or lack of action) is in your best interests. Additionally, the following tips could help save your life:

5 important steps after a slip-and-fall accident

Trips and slips on dangerous property unfortunately happen year-round in Pennsylvania, but the risk is especially high during the winter months.

Property owners are obligated to address known hazards like pot holes, inadequate lighting, faulty stairways and ice and snow buildup. If you suffer a slip-and-fall injury due to a property owner's negligence, here are five important steps to take after the accident.

Parents who are deported may be separated from their children

Undocumented immigrants who have children may have added worries under the Trump administration. While the Obama administration focused its immigration enforcement efforts on people who committed crimes, the current administration is focusing on enforcing the immigration laws against everyone who is in the U.S. illegally.

This is problematic for parents who have children and who are deported. In many such cases, the parents are detained while their children are placed in the foster care system. The parents may then be forced to work through the foster care system in a second language while they are housed in detention centers or when they are in their home countries after they are deported.

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